30 June 2010

Norms and Nobility: The Tyrannizing Science

The title of Chapter 5 of Norms and Nobility is Saving the Appearances, and let me tell you something: this has given me no end of trouble. I have now read the chapter five times, and I am only beginning to grasp what in the world the phrase "saving the appearances" means. Now, I assure you, we can read the chapter and learn a lot of important lessons without understanding the phrase.

However, comma.

I just have this sneaking suspicion that understanding the phrase is the key to the antithesis. In other words, David Hicks is setting the ancient aim of science (saving the appearances) in direct contradiction with the modern aim of science (wielding power over the material world and over each other). If we don't understand the heart of science in both eras, we can't fully learn the lesson.

This morning, then, I poked around on the Internet looking for enlightenment, and I found The Galileo Affair. It is helping me. For instance:
Since the time of the Greeks, the purpose of astronomy was to “save the appearances” of celestial phenomena. This famous phrase is usually taken to mean the resorting to desperate expedients to “save” or rescue the Ptolemaic system. But it meant no such thing. To the Greek and medieval mind, science was a kind of formalism, a means of coordinating data, which had no bearing on the ultimate reality of things. Different mathematical devices—such as the Ptolemaic cycles—could be advanced to predict the movements of the planets, and it was of no concern to the medieval astronomer whether such devices touched on the actual physical truth. The point was to give order to complicated data, and all that mattered was which hypothesis (a key word in the Galileo affair) was the simplest and most convenient.
Hicks mentions this, too, especially that simplicity was preferred. He even explained that the ancients, in spite of their precise logical powers, would set up two contradictory hypotheses, each which "saved" a certain appearance. The appearances, by the way, were what the ancients saw in the night sky--the planets, the constellations, etc.

Science, Hicks tells us, could not concern itself with first causes (origins) or final causes (the ultimate purpose of the thing) because of its nature. Therefore, only immediate causes were to be studied. The Galileo Affair says something similar:
The almost universal belief that the purpose of science was not to give a final account of reality, but merely to “save appearances" ....Astronomy and mathematics were regarded as the play things of virtuosi.
The ancients did not believe that science revealed truth. The controversy concerning Galileo, then, says my trusty website quoting Owen Barfield's book (which, incidentally, is named Saving the Appearances), was over truth:
It took place when Copernicus (probably—it cannot be regarded as certain) began to think, and others, like Kepler and Galileo, began to affirm that the heliocentric hypothesis not only saved the appearances, but was physically true...It was not simply a new theory of the nature of celestial movements that was feared, but a new theory of the nature of theory; namely, that, if a hypothesis saves all the appearances, it is identical with truth. (emphasis mine)
This was an elevation of science to a whole new level.

So, if we are going to understand this chapter, we have to understand what happened. There was a day, once upon a time, when truth had very little to do with science. Truth was what you were taught by your parents and grandparents. Yes, that was part of it. But I would suggest that the most important thing which has been lost is revelatory: Truth revealed.

The problem occurred not when sciencists began asserting that through science one could know something objective, verifiable, and factual about the created order (though folks at the time thought this was a problem, to be sure). The problem was when science bled over. It asserted itself as a capital-t Truth, and purported to know first causes (The Origin Of Species and The Big Bang) and final causes (the purpose of man--there have been various interpretations such as propogation, survival of the species, and, my personal favorite, there is no purpose). Or, there is another way of looking at it. Science shrunk the world to fit itself, everything which cannot be understood in scientific terms being deemed "unreal."

It should probably be noted that Darwin's work is really quite unscientific, a blend of naturalist observation, imagination, and speculation. But this didn't stop Science from adopting evolution as its flag ship.

Okay, so all of this is really interesting, but what does it have to do with education? Well, if you're David Hicks, you think it explains a lot, actually. The ramifications are far-flung and quite catastrophic.

A New Definition of Man
Previously, man was viewed as having three levels of existence: physical, rational, and spiritual. The knowledge he could attain was parallel to these: sensual knowledge (including science), law and purpose, and, finally Good and virtue and Divine knowledge and self-knowledge. Our view of man determines how we educate him:
[E]ducation at every level reflects man's primary assumptions about himself and his world.
The ancients believed that only in understanding the higher knowledge (Good, virtue, Divine, self-knowledge) could one really understand any lower knowledge. The lower was informed by the higher. When science elevated itself, knowingly or unknowingly, man was flattened over time into a one-dimensional, purely physical being. The result is that man is relieved of his responsibility of reaching for the Ideal Type:
[N]ow that science has hypothesized guilt as a neurosis caused by physical forces, some as trivial as toilet training, ideology bids man to blame his angst on parents, on society, on nature, on the past, that is, on anything but himself. The Ideal Type of classical education laying on man the burden of inner change can be sloughed off.
To summarize: science is elevated to the point of dogma, and man, as a result, is lowered to the status of a determined physical animal with chemicals that give him the appearance (and only the appearance) of having a soul.

A New Defintion of Knowledge and Epistomology
"Classical education did not exclude science," says Hicks, and he has made it clear in his work that this is not his personal aim, either. However, comma, Hicks does want to put science back in its rightful place. The ancients
judged science of less significance than other branches of learning that promised knowledge, however slender, at higher levels-of-being.
Remember those levels of man's existence? Science was on the bottom. When science asserted itself as not just describing obersvable, verifiable facts, but of discovering Truth, the very foundation not just of knowledge, but of how we know something at all, was rocked. Over time, science subverted more and more of classical learning, until nothing was left. Here, Hicks quotes Arnold Toynbee:
Whatever the human faculty or the sphere of its exercise may be, the presumption that, because a faculty has proved equal to the accomplishment of a limited task within its proper field, it may therefore be counted on to produce some inordinate effect in a different set of circumstances, is never anything but an intellectual and moral aberration and never leads to anything but certain disaster.
Hicks goes on to say:
This disaster is already becoming evident in our schools, where the yoke of science is thrown over all faculties of mind and spirit and where even poetry and history are taught by means of analyses that exclude the imagination and normative inquiry.
Knowledge, since it deals only with "cold hard facts" which can be analyzed scientifically, loses its transformational ability. No longer able to rise up and reach for the Ideal Type, to lift man out of the mire, to reveal permanent things and transcendant truth, nor to reveal man's true purposes, knowledge is now only known as power:
[T]he modern technocrat sees knowledge as a source of power giving him a manipulative edge over nature and over others.
A New Definition of Teachers and Teaching
Remember, Hicks already told us:
[E]ducation at every level reflects man's primary assumptions about himself and his world.
Okay, so within classical education, there were certain things assumed about man: that he needed and could access redemption or perfection, that there were things he could know which were important and meaningful on a number of different levels, that his purpose was to attain virtue, and so on. Classical education reflected that in what was studied, how it was studied, and so on.

Modern education, on the other hand, assumes a one-dimensional, purely physical being, the purpose of which is to manipulate nature, or otherwise wield power. He has no soul, and his death (and by logical extension his life) are practically meaningless. His personal comfort, therefore, is the most important thing. Modern educational methods and apporaches reflect this belief.


Well, for starters, Hicks says:
All of this narrows the duties of the teacher considerably, thereby improving his chances for a limited success and for developing expert teaching techniques suited to his analytical methods.
Experience, thought by the ancients to be worthless (or even detrimental) for its own sake, is held up as extremely valuable by modern teachers.
For instance, he is willing to let his students read just about anything, just so long as they read.
There is no value system in a purely physical world, so reading one thing is not much better than reading another. Learning one thing is not much better than learning another. The goals of learning, then, are set arbitrarily, or in light of which subjects and facts offer the students the most power upon entrance to adulthood.

The modern teacher doesn't know what to do with the Great Books. He isn't part of the conversation, because he has evolved out of the sway of the scheme of history. Besides, the Great Books, written in the ancient spirit, are normative and prescriptive--all of them point to the Ideal Type.
[T]he modern school is happier avoiding normative issues, and few old books find their way into the modern syllabus. No only do old books raise relentless questions of value, but being rooted in a view of man anitpathetic to the deterministic and "progressive" ideologies, they go on to answer these questions with an authority that seems arbitrary and abrupt....When excerpts from Homer, the Bible, Dante, or Cervantes blunder into his classroom, the modern teacher affects a nonnormative pose. He employs analysis to handle the past as if it no longer held any currency, and for the sake of objectivity, he declines to take sides in the great historical conflicts and debates. He is forever reserving judgment of men and of their actions, unless they are historians with a Churchillian flair for underlining the moral lesson: for praising an Alfred, "the bright symbol of Saxon achievement, the hero of the race," or for condemning an Ethelred, "a child, a weakling, a vacillator, a faithless, feckless creature"...His small store of moral outrage he reserves for these violators of cold-blooded analysis: "subjective historians, hardcover journalists!" Not even his comparative study of religions, when he bothers, smacks of the slightest fervor for truth. "Note how Religion A borrows from Religion B on this point; note how Religion C differs in this respect from Religion A, a difference we might account for in terms of geopolitical influence X."
Sort of a long excerpt, I know, but so distinct from traditional teaching. Think of Jesus, if you will. Though he was not merely a great teacher, he is certainly an accessible model. In the spirit of the ancient world, he not only taught (while walking alongside his students), but he embodied the Ideal for them. The teacher was always taking on the flesh (incarnating) the ideas he taught his students. Understanding this ancient context makes Jesus even more astounding.

At least I think so.

The Point
A lot of this chapter was pure criticism of modern methods. I think I needed it. Reading this helps me put boundaries around science: Here, and no further! This is what we must all declare.

Moreover, we see that to build a better world, we have to remember who man is, that he has a soul, and educate him with that in mind. This means more time must be spent on Great Books and discussing normative issues, and less time in science, not because science isn't important, but because our culture is in need of greater things.

Science is the bottom rung, and not the proper nourishment for the developing soul, as our friend Charlotte would say.

Our children have souls in need of the highest forms of knowledge.

Further Reading:
-Norms and Nobility Chapter V Saving the Appearances

29 June 2010

Lessons from Charlotte: Governing the Kingdom of Mansoul (Part IV)

This isn't just the last part of this portion of the book (Charlotte Mason's Home Education: Training and Educating Children Under Nine), but it is also the last part of the book proper, period. There is an appendix, full of study questions, and you can take a look at them online if you so desire. Me? Well, this is just the first of the three works in my self-imposed summer study course, so I need to keep on keeping on if I'm going to finish and get school planned by the end of August.

Thus far, we've talked about the big picture of the internal life, and we've focused in on the will and the conscience. Today, we'll discuss the influence of the Divine Life, and then we'll wrap it all up.

To Whom is the Soul Loyal?
The will, as we have learned, carries out the judgments of the conscience. But the conscience, we shall see, does not exist in isolation, but is informed by the Word of God, and what Charlotte calls "the Divine Life" within the child:
Conscience, we have seen, is effective only as it is moved from within, from that innermost chamber of Mansoul, that Holy of Holies, the secrets of which are only known to the High-Priest, who "needed not that any man should tell Him, for He knew what was in man."
The spiritual nature of the relationship between parent and child is another of those great mysteries of life. God has given parents a certain amount of influence. (Or perhaps it is better said that God has predestined these children to be influenced by their parents. There. That should satisfy any fellow Calvinists reading this post.) Just as, by virtue of being born into a believing family, the children necessarily have a relationship with the Church from the day of their births, so do they necessarily have a relationship with Him.

I do not pretend to completely understand this. But Charlotte seems to assume it, and, especially to those raised with an entirely baptistic mindset (like me), this concept can be a foreign one.


Enthroning the King, Inducting the Priest
Charlotte has taught me that parents have a huge amount of power, but a sort of power which must be rightly understood. Our power is not the type that forces. We are not gods that we might make things happen. Our power, then, lies in subtleties. It is one of influence. We cannot force, but we, more than any other people in the early years, can encourage, woo, introduce, instruct, feed, water, and nourish.
It is necessary, however, that we should gather up crumbs of fact and inference and set in order such knowledge as we have; for the keys even of this innermost chamber are placed in the hands of parents, and it is a great deal in their power to enthrone the King, to induct the Priest, that every human cries for.
What can we parents do? Like the rest of her educational plan, even here Charlotte's philosophy treads lightly with bare feet. The steps we take are minimal, but calculated for huge impact over the course of the child's life. You see, the life of the soul needs the same sort of encouragement from parents as the other parts of life:
As the conscience, the will, the reason, is ineffective till it be nourished with its proper food, exercised in its proper functions, so of the soul; and its chamber is dull, with cobwebbed doors and clouded windows, until it awake to its proper life; not quite empty, though, for there is the nascent soul; and the awakening into life takes place, sometimes with the sudden shock, the gracious miracle, which we call conversion; sometimes, when the parents so will, the soul of the child expands with a gentle, sweet growth and gradual unfolding as of a flower.
Christian parents cannot decide not to offer their children soul nourishment:
[I]t does not rest with the parent to choose whether he will or will not attempt to quicken and nourish this divine life in his child. To do so is his bounden duty and service.
What is this "Divine Life?"
The truth is too ineffable to be uttered in any words but those given to us. But it means this, at least, that the living soul does not abide alone in its place; that place becomes the temple of the living God.
What Must be Done?
Thankfully, Charlotte doesn't give us an extensive list of detailed instructions in this area shrouded in mystery. Instead, she gives us principle:
But what can the parent do? Just this, and no more: he can present the idea of God to the soul of the child. Here, as throughout his universe, Almighty God works by apparently inadequate means.
She uses the parable of bees pollinating apple flowers (and by extension creating future apple trees) to explain the simplicity of what we do, and the great potential outcome at the end.
Accept the parable: the parent is little better in this matter than the witless bee; it is his part to deposit, so to speak, within reach of the soul of the child some fruitful idea of God; the immature soul makes no effort towards that idea, but the living Word reaches down, touches the soul,––and there is life; growth and beauty, flower and fruit.
Even here, we are to trust not in our own sufficiency, but in the sufficiency of God's Word. Or maybe it is better to say especially here.

Choose Ideas we Know
Here Charlotte says we must not bumble. There is no room for clumsiness. We must teach the children what we know, and only what we know. Well, what if we are new to the faith, and know very little? Then we must teach the one simple thing God has taught us so far. Charlotte assures us that by the time we have imparted the one thing which we know, God will have been faithful to teach us another.

Along these same lines, we mustn't allow other people to teach the children falsehoods about God (this is another danger concerning careless nurses and governesses which Charlotte raises). They must not present our Father in heaven as the child's judge and punisher, frowning at the child from above.

Charlotte knows how tender and receptive children are, not only to true ideas, but to damaging falsehoods as well:
[The mother] will most likely forbid any mention of the Divine Name to the children, except by their parents, explaining at the same time that she does so because she cares so much that her children should get none but right thoughts on this great matter. It is better that children should receive a few vital ideas that their souls may grow upon than a great deal of indefinite.
We offended irritated others (unintentionally) on more than one occasion in our early marriage because we wouldn't put our children in a church nursery at churches to which we did not belong (this is apparently more common now, for we seem to raise fewer eyebrows than we once did, and of course it helps to just stay home and attend our own church). The reason we have made this decision is because we do not take lightly the instructing of our children in the ways of the Lord. We wouldn't trust such things to those who are strangers to us.

Other "Don'ts" and "Dos" from Charlotte
Knowing God is different from knowing His morality. We mustn't mistake moral instruction for intimate knowledge of God.
Do not bepreach the child to weariness about 'being good' as what he owes to God, without letting in upon him first a little of that knowledge which shall make him good.
Some ideas are more appropriate for children than others.
Christ the Joy-giver is more to him than Christ the Consoler. And there are some few ideas which are as the daily bread of the soul, without which life and growth are impossible.
On Religious Instruction
So much of this depends on tact and wisdom, which we do not have in ourselves, but can ask for from God.
[H]e must be built up in the faith, and his lessons must be regular and progressive; and here everything depends upon the tact of the mother. Spiritual teaching, like the wafted odour of flowers, should depend on which way the wind blows...It is as the mother gets wisdom liberally from above, that she will be enabled for this divine task.
Our goal, more than anything else, is to kindle love for the Father and His works. I am reminded, once again, of one of my favorite little board books: What a God We Have. This book has taught me more about commending God's works to my children than a thousand parenting books ever could. In this book, Matthew's Grandma models her delight in God by exclaiming "What a God we have!" at the perfect moments. This is Grandma's response to times of wonder.

I think Charlotte would approve.

Bible reading is a major source of nourishment for the soul, and Mommy's chattering through the reading is the equivalent of putting soy fillers in our hot dogs and lunch meat (which is often done, but really shouldn't be). When we talk and talk to the children about the Bible, we keep them from...hearing the Bible. (This is different from answering a question.) Charlotte has great faith in the ability of the Word to work in the child's heart.

The Word is full of vital force, capable of applying itself. A seed, light as thistledown, wafted into the child's soul will take root downwards and bear fruit upwards. What is required of us is, that we should implant a love of the Word; that the most delightful moments of the child's day should be those in which his mother reads for him, with sweet sympathy and holy gladness in voice and eyes, the beautiful stories of the Bible; and now and then in the reading will occur one of those convictions, passing from the soul of the mother to the soul of the child, in which is the life of the Spirit. Let the child grow, so that,
"New thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven,"
are a joy to him, too; things to be counted first amongst the blessings of a day. Above all, do not read the Bible at the child: do not let any words of the Scriptures be occasions for gibbeting his faults. It is the office of the Holy Ghost to convince of sin; and He is able to use the Word for this purpose, without risk of that hardening of the heart in which our clumsy dealings too often result.
I recently began following Charlotte's precise instructions. We read an "episode" from Genesis most mornings. I try to read it well, in my best reading voice and with reverence, rarely interrupting myself with explanation. The children listen. They say what they need to say (my eight-year-old gives a full narration). And then we move on with our catechism and hymn singing. My son recently told me that he loves reading the Bible this way. (He made sure I knew exactly how bad the old way was in comparison.) Once again, I see that Charlotte knows what she is talking about.

The Vital Truths
If you remember the quote above, Charlotte said that there are a few ideas which are sustenance for the soul, and without which the soul will not grow. When I read this, I felt like Charlotte knew a great secret! Thankfully, she does not neglect to share it with us.
  • Father and Giver: It is here that Charlotte gives us the equivalent of Matthew's Grandma. "Our Father has given you a great birthday today, child!" Recognizing the great and small joys of life as coming directly from God is a must for spiritual growth.
    Out of this thought comes prayer, the free utterance of the child's heart, more often in thanks for the little joys of the day counted up than in desire, just yet. The words do not matter; any simple form the child can understand will do; the rising Godward of the child-heart is the true prayer. Out of this thought, too, comes duty––the glad acknowledgement of the debt of service and obedience to a Parent so gracious and benign––not One who exacts service at the sword's point, as it were, but One whom His children run to obey.
  • Loyalty to a Person: In the end, the nature of Christianity is one of loyalty. We hail Christ as our King. Not ourselves. Not a false, invented deity. When we clear away all the catechisms and memorized prayers, the children must possess this idea about the faith.
    Christ, our King. Here is a thought to unseal the fountains of love and loyalty, the treasures of faith and imagination, bound up in the child....Let us save Christianity for our children by bringing them into allegiance to Christ, the King. How? How did the old Cavaliers bring up sons and daughters, in passionate loyalty and reverence for not too worthy princes? Their own hearts were full of it; their lips spake it; their acts proclaimed it; the style of their clothes, the ring of their voices, the carriage of their heads––all was one proclamation of boundless devotion to their king and his cause. That civil war, whatever else it did, or missed doing, left a parable for Christian people. If a Stuart prince could command such measure of loyalty, what shall we say of "the Chief amongst ten thousand, the altogether lovely"?
  • Jesus is our Savior: Let His salvation be a consolation to even their small failures. Let the reality of His saving work be the salve for the wounds of their day.
    'My poor little boy, you have been very naughty to-day! Could you not help it?' 'No, mother,' with sobs. 'No, I suppose not; but there is a way of help.' And then the mother tells her child how the Lord Jesus is our Saviour, because He saves us from our sins.
    It is fitting that from their earliest days, they take comfort in the fact that they belong to God, that He has set them free.
    The Indwelling of Christ is a thought particularly fit for the children, because their large faith does not stumble at the mystery, their imagination leaps readily to the marvel, that the King Himself should inhabit a little child's heart. 'How am I to know He is come, mother?' 'When you are quite gentle, sweet, and happy, it is because Christ is within,––
    "And when He comes, He makes your face so fair,
    Your friends are glad, and say, 'The King is there."
Thank You, Charlotte
What can I say? Miss Mason's work is truly a masterpiece. In a world where so many of us stumble around, she offers a clear vision for a proper, wholesome, nourishing, sound, challenging, Christian upbringing. (I have heard of nonbelievers attempting an atheistic version of Mason-style education, and I am sure it is better than what is generally accepted as educational, but to remove Christ from Charlotte Mason's philosophy is to remove all of its foundation and its reason for being. Charlotte's approach is distinctively Christian.)

In the course of the next week or two, I hope to finish up Norms and Nobility. I noticed that Cindy has finished, but I haven't read her posts because I like to write mine before I read hers (so that it is only after I have written that I find out what I should have said).

Once I've completed that, I hope to fly through School Education before doing my school planning. If it is even half as brilliant as this first volume, I will consider the time spent pondering it to be time well spent.

Join me?

28 June 2010

Sweet Potato Fries

Because these go way better with burgers than plain old fried potatoes. Because my kids will eat them. Because I will eat them (and I'm not a sweet potato fan). Because it's Monday. Because I scored some sweet potatoes on sale on Saturday, and we ate them the same day and now they're gone.

Because the name of this blog is not "Lessons from Charlotte," but if I don't post something else soon, it might as well be.

Sweet Potato Fries
sweet potatoes, cut up into "fries" (thick ones if you want the "steak fry" variety), enough to fill two cookie sheets
sea salt
garlic powder
olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Get a mixing bowl, and pour some olive oil in it. In batches, toss the sweet potato fries in the oil, coating them thoroughly. Add oil to the bowl as needed. Then, lay the fries out on two separate cookie sheets. One sheet of fries, sprinkle generously with sea salt, cumin, and paprika. The other, sprinkle generously with sea salt, cinnamon, and garlic powder. Put them in the oven. Total cook time is 30 minutes, but I like to stir them around a bit every 10 minutes (to keep them from sticking) and add at least one additional sprinkling of sea salt.

Kids love these.

Lessons from Charlotte: Governing the Kingdom of Mansoul (Part III)

of far, we have looked briefly at the three aspects of the internal life (the will, the conscience, and the Divine Life), and how they work together in the Big Picture. We also focused in on the will and looked at what Charlotte had to say about it. Today, we're going to spend some time discussing the conscience.

The Ubiquitous Conscience
Before I begin, I feel the need to explain that every man has a bit of conscience in him, even if he be born in the flesh. The book of Romans tells us clearly:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools...

Romans 1:18-22 (emphasis mine)
The idea here is that there are certain things which are evident, which all of us know to be true. It is in ignoring our consciences that we become fools.

Charlotte, likewise, approaches the conscience as being a part of humanity not Christianity. (Our first parents ate of the Tree of Conscience, remember.) At the same time, as we discussed when we looked at the Big Picture of the internal life, the Christian conscience will function differently because of the Divine life which has influence over it.

What is the Conscience?
Charlotte defined the conscience as:
Conscience is the lawgiver, and utters the 'Thou shalt' and the 'Thou shalt not' whereon the will takes action; the judge, too, before whom the offending soul is summoned...


[C]onscience is that spiritual sense whereby we have knowledge of good and evil.
Charlotte is quite famous for her saying, "I am, I ought, I can, I will," which she tells us in this chapter
are the steps of that ladder of St. Augustine, whereby we
"rise on stepping stones
Of our dead selves to higher things."
And she defines these steps for us:
  1. I am: we can know ourselves
  2. I ought: we have a conscience which convicts us of right which should be done, and wrong which should be omitted
  3. I can: we are aware that we have the power to take action and do what is right
  4. I will: we choose what is right and we do it
Understanding this human capacity has great potential, Charlotte is convinced:
[Y]ou will see that it is because of the possibilities of ruin and loss which lie about every human life that I am pressing upon parents the duty of saving their children by the means put into their hands. Perhaps it is not too much to say, that ninety-nine out of a hundred lost lives lie at the door of parents who took no pains to deliver their children from sloth, from sensual appetites, from wilfulness, no pains to fortify them with the habits of a good life.
Conscience and the Child
Charlotte says we are not born into this world with fully developed, infallible consciences:
[T]his is to suppose, either that a fully-informed conscience is born into an infant body, or that it grows, like the hair and the limbs, with the growth of the body, and is not subject to conditions of spiritual progress proper to itself.
On the contrary, she points out the "vagaries" of the uninstructed conscience--men who intend good things, but whose consciences have not been fine-tuned enough to effect them.

Charlotte tells us conscience is a faculty, and "undeveloped capability." Of the ideal conscience she says, we look for
conscience with not only the capacity to discern good and evil, but trained to perceive the qualities of the two.
A well-trained conscience is an asset to our children, with wise counsel always on the spot inside themselves when they are grown:
The instructed conscience may claim to be, if not infallible, at any rate nearly always right. It is not generally mature until the man is mature; young people, however right-minded and earnest, are apt to err, chiefly because they fix their attention too much upon some one duty, some one theory of life, at the expense of much besides.
Must we Train?
Charlotte addresses the parents that are tempted to "trust God" with their children (as an excuse for not raising them deliberately). Charlotte quickly snuffs out this idea, informing us that the grace is not going to "supplement the inertness of parents:"
We live in a redeemed world, and infinite grace and help from above attend every rightly directed effort in the training of the children; but I do not see much ground for hoping that divine grace will step in as a substitute for any and every power we choose to leave unused or misdirected. In the physical world, we do not expect miracles to make up for our neglect of the use of means; the rickety body, the misshapen limb, for which the child has to thank his parents, remain with him through life, however much else he may have to thank God for; and a feeble will, bad habits, an uninstructed conscience, stick by many a Christian man through his life, because his parents failed in their duty to him, and he has not had force enough in himself to supply their omission.
We parents have an awesome responsibility:
He is born to love the good, and to hate the evil, but he has no real knowledge of what is good and what is evil; what intuitions he has, he puts no faith in, but yields himself in simplicity to the steering of others. The wonder that Almighty God can endure so far to leave the very making of an immortal being in the hands of human parents is only matched by the wonder that human parents can accept this divine trust with hardly a thought of its significance.
Growing and Informing a Conscience
We know that the conscience comes to us, like the whole child, immature, but packed with potential. How, then, might parents develop the conscience? What ought we to do? What ought we not to do? Thankfully, Charlotte has a list for us:
  • "The children should not be encouraged to give their opinions on questions of right and wrong, and little books should not be put into their hands which pronounce authoritatively upon conduct." Children, she tells us, are apt to "play" with moral questions. I remember the first time one of my own children shocked me in this way when, subsequent to a reading of the parable of The Good Samaritan, he proceeded to discuss all the folks in the world who were not his neighbors. There is a time for ethical debate, surely, but under the age of nine is generally not that time. Why? Charlotte tells us that
    the mature conscience demands to be backed up by the mature intellect, and the children have neither the one nor the other.
  • Read the Bible. Read the Bible. Read the Bible. Charlotte said that the Bible was "the chief source of moral ideas." (Granted, it is not only this, and there is great danger in reading it as merely a book of moral tales--something Victorians were prone to do. However, comma, there is no morality if there be not the authoritative Word.) Charlotte suggests that, at this age, we read them, one "episode" at a time, from the Old Testament, that we do little talking (exceptions made for answering questions, I assume), but rather
    let the story sink in, and bring its own teaching, a little now, and more every year...
  • Read other fitting books. As we are reading good, living books, they "bring aliment to the growing conscience," Charlotte tells us. Because of his age, he will naturally fix his attention upon conduct. How many of us have already experienced the pleasure of powerful tales which draw out the right affections of the child, leading him to love the noble hero, to despise and despair of the deeds of the wicked, and so on? Again, Charlotte assures us that we do not need to chatter away for the children to learn these lessons--if anything, she believes the chatter distracts the child. Instead, we can respect "the silent growth of the moral faculty" much as we respect the seed growing secretly in the soil.
  • Do not allow the child to condemn the conduct of the people around him. Charlotte tells us that this will
    blunt [the child's] conscience, deaden his sensibility to the injunction, 'Judge not, that ye be not judged.'
  • Do not induce introspection. The child is immature. Do not set him to ponder his motives.
  • Give instruction. This part reminded me a lot of our "manners training" in which we often focus on one virtue per week, and discuss how we could live them out in our lives. Charlotte held up "kindness" as an example:
    There is one of the talks with their mother that the children love––a short talk is best––about kindness. Kindness is love, showing itself in act and word, look and manner. A well of love, shut up and hidden in a little boy's heart, does not do anybody much good; the love must bubble up as a spring, flow out in a stream, and then it is kindness. Then will follow short daily talks about kind ways, to brothers and sisters, to playmates, to parents, to grown-up friends, to servants, to people in pain and trouble, to dumb creatures, to people we do not see but yet can think about––all in distress, the heathen. Give the children one thought at a time, and every time some lovely example of loving-kindness that will fire their hearts with the desire to do likewise.

    Take our Lord's parable of the 'Good Samaritan' for a model of instruction in morals. [Unless you are at my house.)] Let tale and talk make the children emulous of virtue, and then give them the "Go and do likewise," the law. Having presented to them the idea of kindness in many aspects, end with the law: Be kind, or, "Be kindly affectioned one to another." Let them know that this is the law of God for children and for grown-up people. Now, conscience is instructed, the feelings are enlisted on the side of duty, and if the child is brought up, it is for breaking the law of kindness, a law that he knows of, that his conscience convicts him in the breaking. Do not give children deterrent examples of error, because of the sad proclivities of human nature, but always tell them of beautiful 'Golden Deeds,' small and great, that shall stir them as trumpet-calls to the battle of life.
  • Make conscience effective by discipline. Once the duty is "made lovely in his eyes," the mother must expect the child to do his duty:
    [I]t is only as we do that we learn to do, and become strong in the doing.

Tomorrow: The Divine Life, or, Where our Loyalties Lie.

Further Reading:
-An Oyster and a Jewel
-Norms and Nobility Chapter 6

26 June 2010

Lessons from Charlotte: Governing the Kingdom of Mansoul (Part II)

The Kingdom of Mansoul is a sort of metaphor (which I am assuming Charlotte Mason adapted from John Bunyan's fabulous allegorical tale The Holy War) for the internal life of the person (get it? Man's soul?). The man is either governed (or not governed, as the case may be) by his will, which is influenced primarily by his conscience which, in turn, is influenced by its loyalties and where they lie. For Christians, the loyalty lies with Christ, our King and Priest, and the goal of all Christian parents is to pass this loyalty on to their children. (The question is always how much influence we parents actually have.)

Today, then, we'll look at the details concerning the will.

The Misunderstood Will
Charlotte invites us to help our children strengthen their wills. In a world where "strong-willed children" are hard to raise and have many a book written about them, Charlotte turns our misconception upon its head:
If the will have the habit of authority, if it deliver its mandates in the tone that constrains obedience, the kingdom is, at any rate, at unity with itself. If the will be feeble, of uncertain counsels, poor Mansoul is torn with disorder and rebellion.
Charlotte wrote that persons can go through life without any real exercise of the will. On the one hand, we have those who have coasted through life, "hedged in," Charlotte explained, "by favouring circumstances." It is harder to identify a lack of vigorous will in a life so abundantly blessed. But there are others, she says, "whom circumstances have not saved, who have drifted from their moorings, and are hardly to be named by those to whom they belong." In both cases, there is no real character in these people. Rather, both types are floating down life's river. It is just that some are battered upon the rocks, and others the current manages to keep safe.

Character, sayeth Charlotte,
is the result of conduct regulated by will. We say, So-and-so has a great deal of character, such another is without character; and we might express the fact equally by saying, So-and-so has a vigorous will, such another has no force of will. We all know of lives, rich in gifts and graces, which have been wrecked for the lack of a determining will.
Charlotte tells us that the will has three functions:
  1. Controlling the passions and emotions
  2. Directing the desires
  3. Ruling the appetites
And then she makes this wise observation:
But observe, the passions, the desires, the appetites, are there already, and the will gathers force and vigour only as it is exercised in the repression and direction of these...
The strong of will, then, are characterized by the ability to be self-governing, rather than a slave to these natural passions, desires, and appetites.

Charlotte then says that our prevalent wrong view of the will leads many parents into a "metaphysical blunder." She gives the example of the child-tyrant. He screams to do what he has a passion for, is obstinate, and monopolizes the toys and games in the nursery. No one can make him do anything (not even himself). We parents see this, and there are typically, Charlotte says, two responses. On the one hand, there are the parents that recognize that a vigorous will is required for a man to make his mark in the world. Mistaking the child's wilfullness for a truly strong will, they decide that his will must not be broken, and "all his vagaries must go unchecked." On the other hand, there are the parents that recognize the behavior as sinful (though they do not understand where and how the will is involved) and so they determine that
the child's will must be broken at all hazards, and the poor little being is subjected to a dreary round of punishment and repression.
Now, though I personally believe that little sinners need some external "punishment and repression" now and then, my goodness, do I see her point!

Back in Charlotte's day, what we call "strong-willed children" were simply called "wilful."
But, all the time, nobody perceives that it is the mere want of will that is the matter with the child. He is in a state of absolute 'wilfulness'--the rather unfortunate word we use to describe the state in which the will has no controlling power; willessness, if there were such a word, would describe this state more truly.
What is it, really, to be "strong-willed?"
Simply this: remove bit and bridle--that is, the control of the will--from the appetites, the desires, the emotions, and the child who has mounted his hobby, be it resentment, jealousy, desire of power, desire of property, is another Mazeppa, borne along with the speed of the swift and the strength of the strong, and with no power at all to help himself. Appetite, passion, there is no limit to their power and their persistence if the appointed check be removed...[T]he child is, in fact, hurried along without resistance, because that opposing force which should give balance to his character is undeveloped and untrained.
We do recognize this a bit in our culture, for when we see a child having a complete meltdown, we often say that he is "out of control." We just don't follow any logical progression, or ask who or what should have been in control, and wasn't.

Why Train the Will?
At this point, Miss Mason explains that there are weak-willed Christians. These Christians, as assured as they are of salvation (and they are), are not the same as heroic Christians. A disciplined will is "necessary to heroic Christian character" she says:
All this the divine grace may accomplish in weak unwilling souls, and then they will do what they can; but their power of service is limited by their past. Not so the child of the Christian mother, whose highest desire is to train him for the Christian life. When he wakes to the consciousness of whose he is and whom he serves, she would have him ready for that high service, with every faculty in training––a man of war from his youth; above all, with an effective will, to will and to do of His good pleasure.
Belonging to a Christian family should be a real advantage. The family is a gift to the child. They might have been born in darkness, but they were not. They were born to be raised in the Church, to be encompassed by the paideia of God in their youth.

Charlotte believes the will is a dividing line:
And here is the line which divides the effective from the non-effective people, the great from the small, the good from the well-intentioned and respectable; it is in proportion as a man has self-controlling, self-compelling power that he is able to do, even of his own good pleasure; that he can depend upon himself, and be sure of his own action in emergencies.
How the Will is Trained
By this point in the reading, I was convinced that the will deserved my attention, that I should train it as best I could. So how is this done? How do parents go about training the will?

It's a thousand little things. It's getting their mind off the pain when they fall, rather than coddling them. There are any number of opportunities throughout the day to challenge the child to elevate himself above his passions, and they start at the earliest of ages.

Charlotte boils a lot of this down into the principle of "changing your thoughts."
It is by force of will that a man can 'change his thoughts,' transfer his attention from one subject of thought to another, and that, with a shock of mental force of which he is distinctly conscious. And this is enough to save a man and to make a man, this power of making himself think only of those things which he has beforehand decided that it is good to think upon.
She names a thousand temptations which present themselves to a man--forbidden pleasures, resentment, weariness from the repetition found in his days--and gives us the strong man's response:
[H]e pulls himself up, and deliberatelly fixes his attention on those incentives which have the most power to make him work...His thoughts run in the groove he wills them to run in...

[H]e just compels himself to think of something else––the last book he has read, the next letter he must write, anything interesting enough to divert his thoughts...

[H]e simply does not allow himself in idle discontent; it is always within his power to give himself something pleasant, something outside of himself, to think of, and he does so...
And so, she asks us to teach this secret to our children:
[T]he knowledge of this way of the will is so far the secret of a happy life, that it is well worth imparting to the children. Are you cross? Change your thoughts. Are you tired of trying? Change your thoughts. Are you craving for things you are not to have? Change your thoughts; there is a power within you, your own will, which will enable you to turn your attention from thoughts that make you unhappy and wrong, to thoughts that make you happy and right. And this is the exceedingly simple way in which the will acts; this is the sole secret of the power over himself which the strong man wields––he can compel himself to think of what he chooses, and will not allow himself in thoughts that breed mischief.
This caused me no small amount of angst at first. I must confess that I wondered if this were true. Can a man have such a power over himself? Ought he? So I prayed. I talked this over with my husband. And I was reminded, first of all, that God instructs us to control our thoughts, to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

Or, we could look at those heroic Christian men, Timothy and Paul. There were myths and false speculations swirling around the church at Ephesus, and what did Paul tell Timothy to do? Instruct the men not to pay attention to the falsehoods. Does Paul tell Timothy to pray for strength? It seems to be assumed that, since Timothy is a Christian, he already has divine strength accessible to him. So the directions are plain: fight the good fight, keep the faith and a good conscience.

In other words, have a vigorous will. Discipline yourself; godliness itself is a discipline. You are not floating along down a river, Timothy. Flee from bad things and actively pursue good things.

Paul's letters imply that a vigorous will is possible for those who believe and have been freed from the chains of sin. It is here that we realize that Charlotte's advice is distinctively Christian.

Charlotte lists off various prerequisites for a developed will, including the power of attention, good habits (bad habits--because they are in conflict with the conscience--do battle with the will and are a cause of struggle), cultivated reason (understanding the whys of life). She then tells us to allow the child to engage in the conquest over his passions and appetites:
Every effort of obedience which does not give him a sense of conquest over his own inclinations, helps to enslave him, he will resent the loss of his liberty by running into license when he can. That is the secret of the miscarrying of many strictly brought-up children. But invite his co-operation, let him heartily intend and purpose to do the thing he is bidden, and then it is his own will that is compelling him, and not yours; he has begun the greatest effort, the highest accomplishment of human life––the making, the compelling of himself. Let him know what he is about, let him enjoy a sense of triumph, and of your congratulation, whenever he fetches his thoughts back to his tiresome sum, whenever he makes his hands finish what they have begun, whenever he throws the black dog off his back, and produces a smile from a clouded face.
I feel as if a whole world of potential encouragement of my children has been opened in me in this single paragraph. Here we have a tangible preparation for The Great Well Done.

Charlotte ends by reminding us that while learning is quite common, self-control is a rare jewel. In this regard, training the will towers above our academic pursuits.

Next up: The Conscience

Further Reading:
-Attention, Please--Way of the Will, part 5
-Attention: Types and Motivations

25 June 2010

Lessons from Charlotte: Governing the Kingdom of Mansoul (Part I)

This is, for me, the most difficult part of the reading. Here we are, in the very last part of the book, and Charlotte begins to cover the soul of man, and even though I've read this book before, it all feels new to me. Her ideas are, for the most part, completely foreign to me. You see, Charlotte is explaining not only how the internal life functions, but what this implies about children, and how the internal life of children can be trained and formed by their parents.

If what we've been reading began with the Parenting and Education 101 course, and then we've jumped around through the upper and lower division classes, well, here we are, now suddenly taking Parenting and Education 602.

Or at least, it feels that way to me.

Charlotte calls the internal life of the soul The Kingdom of Mansoul, a clever little allegory which she fleshes out in her Volume IV: Ourselves (by the way, did anyone notice that the entire Original Homeschooling Series is $11 cheaper today than it was yesterday?), a volume of which I have only read part, but it was extremely insightful, and I look forward to reading more of it in the future.

Suffice it to say that Mason, though she did leave room for mystery, did not think we need necessarily remain mysterious to ourselves. This part of Volume I is, to some extent, the introduction to the concepts in Volume IV.

Mason divides "the government" of The Kingdom of Mansoul into three "branches." I wouldn't take this mental picture too far, though. I tried to come up with a couple illustrative graphics, and here they are:

Kingdom of Mansoul

If you can tell, I first drew something similar to what I'd use to describe the United States Government. But then I realized that having all three on equal ground, implying our national system of checks and balances (if there still be such a thing, but I digress), wasn't quite appropriate. Later, Charlotte describes it more as a system of concentric circles, as if she begins her discussion with the outermost layer of the internal life, and moves her way in, each layer being a little more hidden than the previous.

Anyhow, I don't know if anyone will find these little illustrations helpful not, but I'm posting them, for what they're worth.

The Flow of Power and Decision Making in the Soul
Next post, we'll try to break down the parts and talk about what Charlotte says about them, but for today, we need to try and see the big picture, how they all work together. Charlotte doesn't really define the will, and chooses to talk about its functions and limitations instead. But of the conscience, she says, that it
sits supreme in the inner chamber. Conscience is the lawgiver, and utters the 'Thou shalt' and the 'Thou shalt not' whereon the will takes action.
So the will is the part of the soul that makes decisions and carries them out. But those decisions and actions are expressions of the conscience.

She later explains more about conscience:
[C]onscience is that spiritual sense whereby we have knowledge of good and evil.
The Christian has an additional layer: deep within, there is a King enthroned, a Priest communing with us. To Him, we are loyal, and that loyalty impacts both the judgments of the conscience as well as the activities of the will.

I suppose there is a sense in which we all have this deepest layer, what changes is who the King is. The biggest idol of our culture is Self, and when Self is the one to whom we commit our loyalty, I think no one would debate that this impacts the conscience and the will, the entire life of the man.

The question becomes: What impact can parents have upon the deepest recesses of the children's hearts? Charlotte seems to believe that we can have quite a bit. I am still grappling with this.

24 June 2010

Lessons from Charlotte: What to Cover (Part II)

Yesterday, I posted this and what ended up being yesterday's post all in one long post together. It was beyond long, actually, and I need another word, but it was complete and I felt closure and was ready to move on to the next part. However, comma, Blogger flipped out on me, and actually moved separate paragraphs and quotes around in the latter half of my post and they made no sense!

It was only up for a few minutes, but if you read that yesterday, I apologize!

Anyhow, here we are, and I'm glad, because the next portion is actually a huge brain-jump for me, and I am going to have to spend some extra time thinking it all through.

Yesterday, we covered reading (learning to read), recitation, reading (perfecting reading in older children), narration, writing, transcription, spelling and dictation, and composition, and I think (hope, and pray) they all appeared online as they had to me before publishing.

Today, we will cover the rest: Bible, arithmetic, natural philosophy, geography, history, grammar, French, and pictorial art.

Bible Lessons
Mason begins her section by dismissing the idea that children are not interested in the Bible unless it is watered down into childish talk, complete with splashy pictures painted in the margins. I, for one, have been astounded at how my children enjoy listening to me read a plain King James to them every morning. Mason writes:
We are probably quite incapable of measuring the religious receptivity of children. Nevertheless, their fitness to apprehend the deep things of God is a fact with which we are called to 'deal prudently,' and to deal reverently.
So, who learns what when?
Children between the ages of six and nine should get a considerable knowledge of the Bible text. By nine they should have read the simple (and suitable) narrative portions of the Old Testament, and, say, two of the gospels. The Old Testament should, for various reasons, be read to children. The gospel stories, they might read for themselves as soon as they can read them beautifully.
Right now, we are reading through the stories in Genesis, one story each morning. My eight-year-old narrates the entire story, but first my five-year-old usually has something to say or a question to ask. The three-year-old just sits and listens. The one-year-old...is sleeping.

Children love Bible stories!
[L]et the imaginations of children be stored with the pictures, their minds nourished upon the words, of the gradually unfolding story of the Scriptures...
Should we dissect the stories? Explain them thoroughly? Charlotte says...this is not the way children approach Scripture, and we are ruining the magic when we interfere with the simple beauty, goodness, and truth in the stories.

Here is Charlotte's method of Bible lessons, again with bullets:
  • Read the children a complete episode--"reverently, carefully, and with just expression."
  • Require them to narrate--repeating the exact words of Scripture is fine.
  • Talk of the narrative a bit (for instance, they will want to know why the patriarchs practiced polygamy, etc.)
  • Any pictures used should be fine art, not cartoons. (I recommend Rembrandt to get started, but then again we rarely use pictures during Bible lessons.)
Charlotte also says that children should be taught to recite as young as six, but taught in such a way that it is not a distress to them. She suggests The Prodigal Son as a first parable for memorization.

Arithmetic is uniquely tied to Truth:
The chief value of arithmetic, like that of the higher mathematics, lies in the training it affords to the reasoning powers, and in the habits of insight, readiness, accuracy, intellectual truthfulness it engenders.
And also:
Pronounce a sum wrong, or right--it cannot be something between the two.
Miss Mason suggests relying on what we call "story problems" in the younger ages. Give them problems to solve. Discuss means of finding the answer if necessary. Make sure the only problems given are ones the child is capable of solving.

Another tip given is to "demonstrate anything demonstrable."
The child may learn the multiplication-table and do a subtraction sum without any insight into the rationale of either. He may even become a good arithmetician, apply rules aptly, without seeing the reason of them; but arithmetic becomes an elementary mathematical training only in so far as the reason why of every process is clear to the child.
Use beans, counters, and buttons. Demonstrate everything.

Teach them to think in units of 10, to understand place value (and she explains how to do this--you can read it online, scroll down to "arithmetic")--all of this leads to comprehension of our system of notation, of what the system symbolizes.

To learn weighing and measuring, she again suggests working with real objects. I haven't spent any time at all on weight, but have found that cooking with children teaches measurement in a pleasant way.

Natural Philosophy
Go outside. Go outside. Go outside.

Take a walk. Discuss, identify, classify what you see. Be quiet, but answer questions.

If you are ambitious, read The Sciences by Holden or Scientific Dialogues by Joyce.

Just don't forget to go outside.

Why is geography even important? Raise your hand if, generally speaking, you adored geography drills in school? Memorizing lists of disconnected facts?

Anyone? Anyone?


Anybody remember much of what you were taught in this subject?

Me neither.

This is why Charlotte says it must be interesting:
We begin to see the lines we must go upon in teaching geography: for educative purposes, the child must learn such geography, and in such a way, that his mind shall thereby be stored with ideas, his imagination with images; for practical purposes he must learn such geography only as, the nature of his mind considered, he will be able to remember; in other words, he must learn what interests him.
In our daily Ambleside reading time, just as we trace our history upon a timeline, we trace our geography upon our globes and maps. I am still amazed at how much children learn through this. Of course, this can be added to when missionaries come to visit, when friends are moving away, when discussing where family members live, when adding articles to our news binder which reference locations, and so on.

Charlotte's preferred geography readings are travelling journals and adventure tales like Hartwig's Tropical World and Polar World or Bird's Unbeaten Tracks in Japan. Sketch the traveler's journey on the map. Ask the child for descriptions of the various places and people along the way. For children between six and seven, she suggests completely informal, family read-alouds from  The World at Home.

Is it not amazing that the very books can still be purchased today?

Another activity for geography is that the child should learn to draw maps, in order to really understand them. He can start with his bedroom, the school room (we call ours "the patio") and so on. Later, the family's entire property. Learning to use a compass, to read the stars and sun for direction, etc. all help him understand maps and globes as symbols of real places.

The principles presented here are similar to geography--that it should be interesting. History's importance is not in names and dates (though we will learn those), but in ideas and lessons. It was Charlotte who first made me comfortable with using biography to teach history. Children do not need to learn all of history to learn from history:
Let him, on the contrary, linger pleasantly over the history of a single man, a short period, until he thinks the thoughts of that man, is at home in the ways of that period. Though he is reading and thinking of the lifetime of a single man, he is really getting intimately acquainted with the history of a whole nation for a whole age.
Do not give them textbooks. Do not give them books that have been diluted. Give them books of "literary power." Have them study the early history of a nation. This was a new thought for me this time around:
The early history of a nation is far better fitted than its later records for the study of children, because the story moves on a few broad, simple lines; while statesmanship, so far as it exists, is no more than the efforts of a resourceful mind to cope with circumstances.
Give them first-hand accounts:
[L]et them get the spirit of history into them by reading, at least, one old Chronicle written by a man who saw and knew something of what he wrote about, and did not get it at second-hand.
She suggests  Ecclesiastical History of the English People by Bede and Chronicles of the Crusades by Joinville.

Charlotte here also mentions the reading of Plutarch's Lives, which confused me because I thought this was reserved for children over nine. Anyone have some insight for me here?

Other books mentioned include Old Stories from British History and Sketches from British History by Powell, as well as Lord's Tales from St. Paul's Cathedral and Tales from Westminster Abbey, and Brooke Hunt's Prisoners of the Tower. At eight or nine, children can read A History of England. She makes some mention of what she is looking for in history books, which is important, seeing that her list is only marginally helpful for American students:
  • No textbook or textbook-type "summaries of facts"
  • Avoid generalizations, opinions
  • Include "graphic details concerning events and persons upon which imagination goes to work"
  • Lend themselves to narration
  • Don't forget the old chronicles--the firsthand accounts
As children study history, they can mark the dates out on a timeline, either one kept in a book, or one up on a wall (the latter is what we choose to do in our home). The goal at this point is not memorizing the exact dates, but getting an overall sense of chronology.

Charlotte also suggests having children illustrate what they have learned, drawing scenes from their favorite stories. And, of course, they will act out their books on occasion during playtime.

Grammar, Charlotte says, is not the best subject for young children, because it deals with words rather than things. English grammar is not visual, but rather implied, so Charlotte suggests using a Latin grammar, that they might begin to understand changes in case or mood (Latin shows these visually by changing the form of the word). Even after saying this, she backtracks and says that even Latin grammar may or may not be appropriate at these young ages.

When English grammar is begun, she has some observations for us:
[I]t is better that the child should begin with the sentence, and not with the parts of speech...
Basically, begin with the concept of diagramming sentences, rather than defining every part of speech at the outset. Begin by simply dividing sentences into subjects and predicates, and identifying verbs and nouns (subjects) within that context. This is all she offers, so I think it is obvious that grammar study begins at the very end of the under-nine age range.

Are you learning French? We are not. However, I am sure her rules would apply to any secondary language learning. Her point is that at this age, a second language should be acquired in a living manner. Teach them words they can use in everyday life, and then actually use them.

I am seriously considering enlisting my Spanish-speaking neighbor to help with this.

But at this age? No book work. No grammar or even conjugation lessons. Simply learn some words and use them.

At the same time, children think in sentences, so giving them sentences containing thoughts will help them learn to think in their second language.

Also, children learn languages by first hearing them, and then imitating them. Introducing books is unnecessary to this part of the process--pronunciation is the most important thing at this age. Spelling, she says, can be fixed.

Pictorial Art
my three-year-old's
favorite picture
This is the last one! I have a special heart for this, not because I am an expert on art (because I am not), but because I have learned first-hand that we underestimate children's ability to appreciate--to love--art. Children are tender to art. I am always amazed that, when I switch out the term's pictures, my girls will sit and stare at them for quite some time before moving on with their days.

The method of picture study is fairly simple. One artist per term is studied, about half a dozen of his works during that time. The children study the picture, and then the picture is taken away and they are to describe it in detail from memory. Different ideas can be discussed after or during their study time--possible symbolism, what the children think the artist was thinking about, the title. If the title is directly related to a story, I like to read the children the story if they haven't heard it before.

We do art narration as well. Charlotte had them draw the "chief lines" which is a bit different, but has a similar aim, I think.

Drawing lessons were also appropriate, if for no other reason than that they assisted the children in understanding and appreciating art, and in illustrating their history books. Mystie recently pointed out Donna Young's online resources, which make a lot of sense if you already own Mona Brookes' Drawing with Children, which I thankfully do.

In regard to drawing, Charlotte tells us that we must believe that "children have art in them." They are worthy of quality supplies for their art. Clay modeling is helpful, if the teacher guides the student.

Miss Mason regrets that she has not mentioned musical education. She briefly suggests Tonic Sol-Fa for general music training, and Curwen's Child Pianist for piano. Some of what she mentions about these approaches makes me wonder about similarities to Piano Phonics, something else I am exploring.

She also mentions handicrafts and drill (Swedish drill--think physical education, but structured and learning something specific, and somewhat militaristic to my girlie eye). Both, she says, are valuable. There are a few things to remember about handicrafts:
(a) that [children] should not be employed in making futilities such as pea and stick work, paper mats, and the like; (b) that they should be taught slowly and carefully what they are to do; (c) that slipshod work should not be allowed; (d) and that, therefore, the children's work should be kept well within their compass.
The End.

Next time, we'll be moving on to an entirely different subject.
Read More:
-The P.N.E.U. Method in Sunday Schools (example of narration--this is similar to how we do Bible Study in the mornings)
-Some Notes on Narration
-Attention: Its Nature and Importance
-Picture Talks
-Conference Discussion on Concrete Problems
-Crafts in the Life of the Child (Part IV)